Exercise Critical Thinking Every Day

As we educate our students to become fair-minded adults who can make well-reasoned judgements and sound decisions, we must help them exercise their critical thinking muscles.

A Little Change to The Beginning of Class

A typical way to begin a new lesson is to give students a little introduction. “Today, class, we are going to study circumference. By the end of class, you will know what it is and how to measure it. First, here’s a definition:…”

That sounds pretty familiar, right? But instead, we can ask students a question that gets their minds working before even mentioning this new term.

Like this:


After students take some guesses, let students draw on the image and ask “what information do you think you might like to know to figure this out?”

Now students begin thinking about how they don’t know how long the hill is or how big the ball is. As they mark up the image, and begin discussing, they might find they need some words to describe what they are talking about.

Now when you tell them the word “circumference” it’s a word that’s instantly applicable. They’ve already been grappling with the problem and need a word for it. What’s more, students started class by considering a fun picture with an interesting question. They were using information they had from the image and mixing it with intuition or prior knowledge to figure out what to do next.

Here’s another example from Franz Ruiz

When starting a lesson on Homeostasis, he could have launched into a description of the term. Instead, he presents a mystery from an intriguing historical event.


Using facts from the event and prior knowledge, he asks students to consider why so many died even though they had life jackets and boats. After students have warmed up their critical thinking muscles and are invested in the problem, now Franz introduces the concept of Homeostasis.

Just by making a little change in how we launch a new lesson, we can get students thinking critically right from the beginning of class.